Feb 10th 2009

The Violence and Settlements Anathema (Part 2/2)

Alon Ben-Meir

Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. alon@alonben-meir.com Web: www.alonben-meir.com

To make serious progress toward a final status agreement between Israel and the
Palestinians, George Mitchell must first work on restoring confidence in a peace
process that years of havoc and destruction have all but destroyed. To that end,
he needs to address the two core sensitive issues that both Israelis and
Palestinians place tremendous importance on--ending the violence and
fundamentally shifting the settlements policy.

The settlements issue has been contentious not only between Israel and the
Palestinians but within Israel itself. No issue has eroded the Palestinian's
confidence in the peace process more than the settlements. For the Israelis, the
settlements and their expansion are a highly emotional and politically charged
national subject. Any future Israeli government will face vehement opposition
from the settler's movement, which exercises disproportionate power on the
government's policy toward its activities.

Ideally, building a structure of peace and instilling trust in the negotiating
process would require a complete freeze of all settlement activities including
the settlement blocks that Israel wishes to incorporate into Israel proper in
exchange for a land swap to compensate the Palestinians for the territory. But
that may be easier said than done. To provide some practical suggestions, it is
necessary to break down the settlers' movement into its three basic
constituencies. In so doing some possible interim solutions can realistically be
made to demonstrate to the Palestinians that Israel intends on changing its
settlements' policy and evacuating the vast majority of the West Bank. The quality-of-life settlers are those who moved to the West Bank primarily for
economic reasons, the majority of whom live in the block of settlements located
closer to the green line. According to Peace Now statistics, there are about
190,000 residents in these settlements, several of which are no longer
considered settlements and officially have been named as cities, home to more
than 30,000 people each including Ma'ale Adumim, Modi'in and Beitar. The routing
of the security fence leaves most of these settlements on the Israeli side of
the fence. The pressure on the government to allow for natural growth in these
settlements is enormous and no government is likely to freeze completely their
natural expansion even under intense American pressure.

The ideological settlers use mainly religious arguments to justify the
settlements and their presence in the West Bank. They view the return of the
Jews to the land of Israel as a fulfillment of God's will. They occupy
settlements located for the most part deep inside the West Bank very close to
and often in the heart of Palestinian populated areas. It is quite evident
however that the public support for these settlements is declining. A growing
majority of Israelis tend to accept the fact that the Israel will need to
evacuate most of these nearly 100 settlements that dot the West Bank.

The Ultra-orthodox settlers in the West Bank are a function almost exclusively
of cheap and segregated housing close to the Green Line. They are descendents of
devoutly religious Jews who oppose change and modernization. They have
historically rejected active Zionism and continue to believe that the path to
Jewish redemption is through religious rather than secular activity. There are
eight ultra orthodox settlements that were built in the eighties and nineties
with roughly 80,000 residents, all of which are located within the settlement
blocks that Israel wants to incorporate into Israel proper. These settlements
are currently expanding more rapidly than other settlements due primarily to a
higher birth rate.

Based on the settlers' ideological leanings and the location of the settlements,
Mr. Mitchell should focus on four possible areas where he can persuade the next
Israeli government to take action, considering the political constraints under
which any future Israeli coalition government operates.

First Mitchell should push for the dismantling of all new illegal outposts; the
government can take this action without losing much political capital and it can
certainly justify it by citing American pressure. The mushrooming of new
outposts has been a terrible source of Palestinian frustration as they signify
further entrenchment rather than disengagement.

Second on the agenda should be removing small clusters of settlements occupied
by ideological activist settlers in places such as Nablus and Hebron that are
troublesome and heavily tax Israel's security forces. All of these settlements
are deep in the West Bank and most Israelis agree that they must eventually be
evacuated for any peace deal.

Third, Israel must create a program of diminishing incentive that will provide
settlers who are willing to relocate voluntarily with equal housing an extra
incentive of say $100,000 if they leave within the first year from the
initiation of the program. (This amount is compelling based on the Israeli
standard of living.) The incentive will then be reduced by $25,000 every six
months thereafter. The idea is to create reverse migrations to Israel proper
while psychologically preparing the Israeli public and the Palestinians for the
inevitability of ending the occupation. While many settlers will not accept the
compensation and try to hold out for a better deal, the government must be
resolute and not give into blackmail; these settlers must eventually be
forcefully evacuated with no incentive.

Lastly, whereas a complete moratorium on expansion of settlements may be
untenable, the United States can exert sufficient pressure on Israel to be
sensitive to Palestinian sensibilities and not commence major development
projects at sensitive moments in the negotiations. Meanwhile, the negotiations
on the final borders should be accelerated to reach an agreement on the
settlements that Israel could incorporate into its own territory. Such an
agreement with the Palestinians would greatly facilitate the movement of
ideological settlers from their current locations to these settlements while
still fulfilling their ideological mission.

The new Israeli prime minister, including Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, is
likely to be under intense American pressure to make meaningful concessions for
advancing the peace. Although Netanyahu as a Prime Minister will be a tough
negotiator and will demand full compliance in return from the Palestinians for
any concession he makes, he may also prove to be the more worthy interlocutor
and more trusted by the public. It should be noted that the largest territorial
concessions--the Sinai, Hebron and Gaza were all made by Likud leaders Begin,
Netanyahu and Sharon respectively.

Mr. Mitchell concluded his report of the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee
with the following words, "Israelis and Palestinians have to live, work, and
prosper together. History and geography have destined them to be neighbors. That
cannot be changed. Only when their actions are guided by this awareness will
they be able to develop the vision and reality of peace and shared prosperity."

No American president has taken such a keen and immediate concern with the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict this early in his term as President Obama, and no
agreement between Israel and the Arab states has been achieved without direct
American involvement. If time, circumstances and leadership matter, there may
not be a better time to push for a solution than now.

Click here for Part 1.

If you wish to comment on this article, you can do so on-line.

Should you wish to publish your own article on the Facts & Arts website, please contact us at info@factsandarts.com.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Sep 29th 2022
EXTRACTS "Ever since she became a prominent political figure 12 years ago, Truss has been a shapeshifter. She started as a Liberal Democrat before becoming a Conservative, and she voted to remain in the European Union before championing Brexit. As a minister, it is hard to think of anything she accomplished. She signed a few EU trade deals as Secretary of State for International Trade, but most of those were rollovers." --- "But if until recently it seemed that Truss was driven solely by political ambition, her government’s 'mini-budget' proposal sheds light on her deeper ideological affinities."
Sep 20th 2022
EXTRACT: "Russia’s focus on Ukraine and Putin’s choice to frame this as a civilisational struggle with the west has created opportunities for China to enhance its influence elsewhere – at Russia’s expense."
Sep 20th 2022
EXTRACTS: ”The Ukrainian army is making spectacular advances,” --- “…the European Union has fully mobilized to confront the energy crisis.” ---- “we are helping our partners in the Global South to handle the fallout from Russia’s brutal aggression and cynical weaponization of energy and food.” ---- “In short: the overall strategy is working. We must continue to support Ukraine, pressure Russia with sanctions, and help our global partners in a spirit of solidarity.”
Sep 8th 2022
EXTRACT: "In 1950, a team of sociologists, including the philosopher Theodor Adorno, conducted an empirical study, later published as The Authoritarian Personality, which ....... “If a potentially fascistic individual exists, what, precisely, is he like? What goes to make up antidemocratic thought? What are the organizing forces within the person?... what have been the determinants and what is the course of his development?”
Aug 29th 2022
EXTRACT: "Russian aggression certainly poses a threat; but it is a familiar one that we know how to deal with. Rising temperatures, dry riverbeds, parched landscapes, falling crop yields, acute energy shortages, and disruptions to industrial production are something else."
Aug 25th 2022
EXTRACTS: "As the revolutionary founder of a new Chinese state, Mao emphasized ideology over development. For Deng and his successors, it was the opposite: De-emphasis of ideology was viewed as necessary to boost economic growth through market-based 'reform and opening up.' Then came Xi. Initially, there was hope that his so-called 'Third Plenum Reforms' of 2013 would usher in a new era of strong economic performance. But the new ideological campaigns carried out under the general rubric of Xi Jinping Thought, including a regulatory clampdown on once-dynamic Internet platform companies and associated restrictions on online gaming, music, and private tutoring, as well as a zero-COVID policy that has led to never-ending lockdowns, have all but dashed those hopes." ----- "With the upcoming 20th Party Congress likely to usher in an unprecedented third five-year term for Xi, there is good reason to believe that China’s growth sacrifice has only just begun."
Aug 23rd 2022
EXTRACTS: "Less widely noted, however, is that the prices of many commodities fell this summer. The price of oil decreased by about 30% between early June and mid-August. The politically sensitive price of gasoline in the United States fell by 20% over the same period, from $5 per gallon to $4 per gallon. The overall index fell 12%." ---- "There are two macroeconomic reasons to think that commodity prices in general will fall further. The level of economic activity is a self-evidently important determinant of demand for commodities and therefore of their prices. Less obviously, the real interest rate is another key factor. And the current outlook for both global growth and real interest rates suggests a downward path for commodity prices."
Aug 22nd 2022
EXTRACT: "How Trump planned to use the classified documents remains a question that investigators presumably have made a high priority. Depending on the answer and the resulting charges, if any, one thing is certain: Trump will play hardball, including by amplifying his claims of victimhood at the hands of the fictional Deep State, and denying any wrongdoing in purloining the documents. His lies and hyperbole, however, don’t preclude seeking a plea deal. In his previous tangles with the law, such as his Trump University scam, he agreed to compensate the victims (in that case $25 million) after his prevarications were exhausted."
Aug 21st 2022
"On one side, there is the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, for whom all but the most partisan Tory would struggle to count many successes during her lengthy cabinet career." ---- "Rishi Sunak, whose proposed policies appear more attuned to the imperative of tackling inflation and the hardship it is causing. But on the big issues of the past few years, Sunak has been wrong. He backed Brexit from the beginning, denies the damage it is doing, and enthusiastically supported Johnson’s bid for the premiership." ---- " Which of these two can offer honesty to the British people, who deserve to be treated like grown-ups? To paraphrase the US Democratic politician Adlai Stevenson, the average man and woman are better than average."
Aug 10th 2022
EXTRACT: "Central banks are thus locked in a “debt trap”: any attempt to normalize monetary policy will cause debt-servicing burdens to spike, leading to massive insolvencies, cascading financial crises, and fallout in the real economy. ---- With governments unable to reduce high debts and deficits by spending less or raising revenues, those that can borrow in their own currency will increasingly resort to the “inflation tax”: relying on unexpected price growth to wipe out long-term nominal liabilities at fixed rates."
Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACT: ".... the likelihood is that Biden, who spent his life as a senator, played a central behind-the-scenes role in turning Manchin around and keeping the Democratic Party Senators together on this pared-down version of Build Back Better. Biden’s legislative accomplishments, not to mention his administrative ones, will likely end up being very impressive for the first two years of his presidency. ------ In matters of climate, every ton of CO2 you don’t put into the atmosphere is a decrease in how hard life will be for our grandchildren. They will have reason to be grateful to President Biden and the Democratic Party if this bill becomes law."
Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACTS: "Right-wing media outlets including Fox News, One America News (OAN), Newsmax, and talk radio are grossly abusing the right to free speech and are causing profound, if not irreparable damage to our country at home and abroad. They have been engaged in these deliberate practices of spreading poisonous misinformation all in the name of free speech." ---- "A team at MIT, analyzing propaganda techniques in the news, underscores the use of logical fallacies – such as strawmen (the misrepresentation of the other’s position), red herrings (the provision of irrelevancies), false dichotomies (offering two alternatives as the only possibilities), and whataboutism (a diversionary tactic to avoid directly addressing an issue). ---- Whataboutism is worth considering more closely because it is becoming ubiquitous among Republicans – perhaps this is not surprising given that it is certainly Trump’s “favorite dodge.” It is one of the fundamental rules by which he operates: when you are criticized, say that someone else is worse. In an interview with Trump, Bill O’Reilly states the obvious fact that “Putin is a killer,” and who can forget Trump’s response: “There are a lot of killers. You got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?” That is classic whataboutism. And it is also of course all over Fox News’ most popular line-up."
Jul 24th 2022
EXTRACTS: "For three hours, against the unequivocal advice of his counsel, friends, and family, Trump purposefully and steadfastly declined to give the mob he had summoned any signal to disperse, to exit the building peacefully, or to simply cease threatening the life of his vice president or other members of Congress." ------ "Trump is corrupt to the core, a traitor who deserves nothing but contempt and to spend the rest of his life behind bars because he remains a menace to this country and an existential threat to our democratic institutions."
Jul 21st 2022
EXTRACT: "For some countries, diasporas also are not new. Just ask the Russians. For three-quarters of a century, Stalin’s NKVD and its successor, the KGB, kept close tabs on expatriate Russians, constantly worrying about the threat they might pose. And now, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s security service, the FSB, is continuing the tradition. According to recent FSB estimates, almost four million Russians left the country in the first three months of this year. Obviously, FSB statistics are hard to verify. But the sheer magnitude of this year’s departures is striking."
Jul 20th 2022
EXTRACTS: "We need leaders who will be honest about our problems in the short, medium, and long term. We are becoming poorer than our neighbors, with our per capita growth and productivity lagging behind theirs. We confront surging energy prices, soaring inflation, and public-sector strikes. Our fiscal deficit is uncomfortably high. Our influence is diminished. Far from recognizing these challenges, let alone proposing sensible solutions, the candidates to succeed Johnson are trying to win votes with reckless proposals like ever-larger tax cuts." ----- "There is one exception. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak refuses to abandon the notion that expenditure should bear some relationship to revenue. "
Jul 13th 2022
EXTRACT: "Looking ahead, five factors could make today’s energy crisis even worse. First, Putin has opened a second front in the conflict by cutting back on the contracted volumes of natural gas that Russia supplies to Europe. The goal is to prevent Europeans from storing enough supplies for next winter, and to drive prices higher, creating economic hardship and political discord. In his speech in June at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin made his reasoning clear: “Social and economic problems worsening in Europe” will “split their societies” and “inevitably lead to populism … and a change of the elites in the short term.” ...... As it is, Germany is now anticipating the need for gas rationing, and its minister for economic affairs, Robert Habeck, warns of a “Lehman-style contagion” (referring to the 2008 financial crisis) if Europe cannot manage today’s energy-induced economic disruptions."
Jul 5th 2022
EXTRACT: "Fortunately, I am not alone in claiming that the survival of democracy in the US is gravely endangered. The American public has been aroused by the decision overturning Roe. But people need to recognize that decision for what it is: part of a carefully laid plan to turn the US into a repressive regime. We must do everything we can to prevent that. This fight ought to include many people who voted for Trump in the past."
Jul 2nd 2022
EXTRACT: "The Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit described this succinctly in his book On Compromise and Rotten Compromises. In “politics as economics,” material interests are “subject to bargaining, everything is negotiable, whereas in the religious picture, centered on the idea of the holy, the holy is non-negotiable.” This, then, is why politics in the US is now in such a perilous state. More and more, the secular left and the religious right are engaged in a culture war, revolving around sexuality, gender, and race, where politics is no longer negotiable. When that happens, institutions start breaking down, and the stage is set for charismatic demagogues and the politics of violence."
Jul 2nd 2022
EXTRACT: "...EU enlargement is essentially a political decision by member states, based on a multitude of considerations that sometimes include dramatic events. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is such a turning point."
Jun 29th 2022
EXTRACT: "Most market analysts seem to think that central banks will remain hawkish, but I am not so sure. I have argued that they will eventually wimp out and accept higher inflation – followed by stagflation – once a hard landing becomes imminent, because they will be worried about the damage of a recession and a debt trap, owing to an excessive build-up of private and public liabilities after years of low interest rates." ----- "There is ample reason to believe that the next recession will be marked by a severe stagflationary debt crisis. As a share of global GDP, private and public debt levels are much higher today than in the past, having risen from 200% in 1999 to 350% today (with a particularly sharp increase since the start of the pandemic). Under these conditions, rapid normalization of monetary policy and rising interest rates will drive highly leveraged zombie households, companies, financial institutions, and governments into bankruptcy and default."